Friends Handicraft in Nepal was one of the first artisan groups GGP partnered with soon after launching in 2005. Since that time, Friends has produced GGP’s beautiful, ever-growing and ever-green assortment of felt flowers and children’s toys.
With the increasing popularity of its products, the founders of Friends Handicrafts determined the best path for growth and creating more jobs for women in the community was to establish two new entities based on Friends’ initial model. From one successful women-owned enterprise, we are excited to introduce you to our newest partners: Nirjala Craft and Nuptse Craft.
Where It Started: Friends Handicraft
Shanti Shrestha and Nirjala Shrestha - good friends but not related - met at Padma Kanya College in Kathmandu and decided to start the artisan cooperative that evolved into Friends Handicrafts. With orders and production exceeding their dreams, they were able to employ more local artisan women each year.
As close partners over the years, Shanti and Nirjala shared with us news of their exciting growth, their growing pains and their plans to become two cooperatives. In the summer of 2017, Jenn Wong, GGP’s director of design and product development, and Johanna Teeri, our director of finance and operations, traveled to Kathmandu to help with the nuts and bolts behind the transition to two separate entities. Now, our beloved flowers are handmade by the two cooperatives equally.
Nirjala Craft employs 70 women and one man, and Nuptse employs 68 women. Combined, this represents an increase of approximately 30 percent from when they were just one cooperative. As well as artisans working in stitching, wet felting and post-production, both groups also have a bookkeeper, supervising accountant, a cook who prepares lunch for all employees, and another staff member who serves food, buys groceries, and does general cleaning.
Since the cooperatives have become two, we have been able to increase our production with them by 67 percent, which has been incredibly exciting for all three of us!
In Nepal, it was fairly common that women were not able to work outside the home. Poverty and years of low economic growth rates, however, forced many women into the work force, increasing the supply of women eager to work and contribute to their household incomes.
Both Nuptse Craft and Nirjala Craft provide flexible yet sustainable work to their employees. Every artisan works full time and is paid monthly by the cooperative. Approximately 75 percent are married, and 70 percent are mothers. Some employees are able to complete their stitching work from home, allowing them to stay with their young children while they work. All artisans have the option to catch the bus to work free of charge, and each day, a hot lunch is provided for all employees.
Both cooperatives also sponsor a bi-annual retreat for their employees, focusing on dancing, music and food, to celebrate as a team. Both cooperatives also maintain a flexible credit pool for financial emergencies and borrowing needs for any artisan with the interest earned on the account being distributed among the artisans at the end of the year.
From now on, you will see that our felt product is made by NUPTSE or NIRJALA, as we split the product evenly between the two groups. We are proud to partner with these two incredible groups, and are beyond impressed with the hard work, attention to detail, and entrepreneurship of all artisans.